When we lose our way, God always finds us. Praise be to God.

Introduction

You can click here to read the passage.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it is getting harder and harder to get lost these days.

Before living in Poughkeepsie, I lived in Orange County, California, home of 3.1 million people with boulevards and freeways crisscrossing every which way, and I never got lost.  Not once. It’s not because I’m great with directions but because my phone has gps.

GPS has ruined getting lost.

One evening I was driving back from Long Beach and there is this tricky intersection where the freeway splits three ways. It wasn’t intuitive, because if you wanted to go west toward the ocean where we lived, you had to exit east, drive south, and then loop around.

I did the intuitive thing and ended up on the wrong freeway. It should have been a fifteen-minute mistake, but my phone said, “No problem, Jason, just exit in 4 miles, take this turn and then that one, and you’ll be home in time for dinner.”

Do you know what this means? It means that we now live in a world where the wrong way still gets you to the right place. If you don’t get lost, you never feel what it means to get back. Oh, finally, something looks familiar. Sorry, honey, I’m late. I missed my exit. See!

Yes, it’s getting harder to get lost. Could you imagine life like that?

On the other hand, it’s easy to lose something.

I once lost something valuable. It was valuable on account of the price of it and also because it was my wedding ring. Barb and I met when we were 23 and soon after dating, I realized I shouldn’t mess around and lose her, so I proposed.

There was a jeweler in our church named Neil (he lost someone once). He was loving, a bit eccentric, and wore dress shirts with the top 3 buttons unbuttoned. He sized us and made sure we were satisfied and off we went.

I wasn’t used to wearing a ring.  I hate the feeling of water under it, so I took it off when I did the dishes. Well, one day I took it off and couldn’t find it. I got so desperate, I looked for it. Didn’t find it that hour, that day, or that month.

A year later, Barb and I are getting ready to go out with some friends and I say, “Oh, these shoes are uncomfortable. Let me change real quick.” I open the closet and see some dusty shoes I haven’t worn in ages. I dust them off and put them on, “Wait. What’s that? A rock?” Nope. I turn my shoe over and out comes my ring.

I guess I put the ring in my pocket and when I refused to just throw my pants across a chair like Barb likes for me to do, and I insisted to hand them up. I guess the ring fell out of my pocket and into my shoe.

I come out smiling and Barb says, “Why the smile?” And I flash the ring.

You see, if you don’t lose something, you just don’t know the joy of finding it again. Watch out, though, because tech companies are trying to take that away from us as well. They now have sticky things you can put on your possessions and it will ping your phone with its location.

You may never lose anything again. Can you imagine a life like that?

If you don’t lose something, you never feel the aggravation. “Now, I know I put that thing in this room right here. Sweetie, did you move stuff again.”

You mean, did I clean? Yes.

And if you don’t lose something, you never know the joy of finding. You’ll miss out on having it and then losing it and then trying to find it and wondering, now where is it? And you don’t know what it feels like to just give up and say, “It’s lost.” And then you live a new life without. But then, you find it! It feels like a bonus, a gift. It feels like you are put back together.

It’s getting harder to get lost. It’s getting harder to lose something.

But have you noticed, that it is getting easier to lose your way? There are a thousand ways to lose your way, so the question is, when we get lost, can we come back?”

1. We lose our way

There’s a story in Second Kings, an important history book in the first half of the Bible. The story begins, “Now Josiah was 8 years old when he became king.” (This also happened to Peter).

King or not, eight-year-olds are great at losing things. But in this case, he found something.

For several generations before him, there had been kings and queens who were not good. They actually avoided talk about God and avoided being open to God. The longer they lived like this, the further away they moved. One day, one of those foolish leaders went over and picked up the Bible and said, “We’ll be done with that.” They put their Bible in the closet.

Because they still lived in a world where you had to take the right road to get where you wanted to go, they lost their way. One king and queen after another walked further and further away from God. The neighborhoods started crumbling. The poor were beaten and abused. No one had the feeling that their neighbors or their government were there in their best interest. So, everything began to fall apart.

As a preacher in my hometown used to say, “They were as lost as a termite in a yo-yo.”

But Josiah’s parents remained open to God and so did he. Josiah noticed a desire in his heart and he began to restore the Temple. God will get us back on the right path. This is his sole mission.

When he is 18 he does this work on restoring the temple and he says, “Go into the treasury, tell me the value of what you find.”

“Sir, we have gold to adorn the temple and we have silver to pay the workers. We have more than enough.”

Great. Very well.

“Oh, sir. We also found something that is priceless.” You just said we have gold and silver, what can be more valuable than that? “Sir, would you like for me to bring it to you?”

Yes. The treasurer brings out a box and places it in Josiah’s lap. Josiah opens the box, looks in, and says, “It’s a book. Read it.”

And for the first time in generations, this phrase was uttered, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and the earth was formless and void and the wind of God swept over the face of the deep.” And, Josiah, for the first time, heard read to him the story of how Adam and Eve lived together and cared for the earth but they lost their way.

He heard the story of Abraham’s call to travel over 700 miles and to trust God to get him there. Many times Abraham didn’t do what was right or wise, but every time he lost his way, God brought him back.

He read about his people were in Egypt for over 430 years in slavery. They were abused, mistreated, and no one was looking out for them. But, praise God, God saw them and delivered them.

Then, to his utter astonishment, Josiah hears the story of how those same people who were delivered by God, turned their noses up to God, missed their exit, and wandered off in the wilderness for 40 years.

Then it clicked. Their story is my story. The Bible isn’t just about what happened, but it is about what happens. Josiah humbled himself and allowed the words of God to shape his heart and how he lived his life.

An astonishing story, but it is amazing what good can come when we bring the gospel of God out of the closet and out into the open.

Friends, it’s so easy to lose our way. Some of the best people can lose their way. We can lose our way.

The question then is, when we lose our way, can we get back?

2. When We Lose our way, how do we get back?

Here’s a question: there were many, many kings and queens before Josiah. Why didn’t they turn around? Why was it different with Josiah? It’s the heart, right?

If our hearts remain open and soft toward God like Josiah, then when God feels absent, it bothers us. We have a nagging feeling that something is not right. We feel fragments and not whole. That feeling pulls us back.

If our hearts are hard and closed toward God, then the absence of God doesn’t bother us. What bothers us when our hearts are hard is the presence of God, and that feeling pushes us away.

You’ve lived this. When you have a co-worker who is kind and honorable, you want to spend more time with them. When you have someone who is a gossip, unkind, or self-absorbed, you want to go away from them.

This would explain why not everyone in the Easter story is happy about it. It seems that what sets people apart in the story of Jesus is whether or not their heart is open or closed to being influenced by God.

Pilate was the Roman governor over Jerusalem. He really disliked how the presence of Christ made him feel. Herod disliked how the presence of Christ made him feel. Their reaction is based on their heart—hard and closed. So they decided to put Jesus away on the cross and then put him away in a grave.

Think of the two men with Jesus. You may remember that Jesus was crucified and there were two men on either side of him. One man’s heart is closed and hard and he mocks Jesus’ situation. “Ha! The Messiah! If he was the Messiah, he could save himself and us!”

Yet, not far from him is a man in the exact same situation. Christ’s presence in his life makes him hunger and long for forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope.

Jesus responds to the second man, “Undoubtedly, you’ve made a few wrong turns and lost your way, but today you will arrive home with me in paradise.”

We lose our way. One day we wake up experiencing the consequences of our actions and we say, “How did I get here?” But I want to be clear, that even when we have lost our way, God has not lost us. We are good at getting lost, but God is good at finding.

3. God Gives Christ Back to Us

As a matter of fact, God found Jesus even after someone tried to hide him in the ground!

Consider Mary, Peter, John, Josiah, and the man on the cross beside Jesus. They all came to a point in their own way and in their own time to the gospel. Here is the gospel: losing our way is what we do; finding us and putting us right is what God does.

It doesn’t matter if you think you’ve lost your way for too long, or that you’ve tried to come back but it didn’t stick. It’s never too late to have a posture of openness and humility with God.

And in our passage, Mary, Peter, and John, have lost Jesus, but God gives Jesus back to them. And if you are here today and you feel empty. Your spiritual life feels ho-hum. You are just kind of disengaged, I want to tell you and to encourage you to keep looking.

Be like Josiah, and keep looking. Keep longing. Don’t settle.

Be like Mary, keep looking. Don’t settled.

Maybe there is something in Josiah that inspires you. You remember the faith of your grandparents. You remember the faith of your youth. You remember the faith of your parents. Or, you look around and there are very few people engaged in faith, but you want to have a faith that feels like yours.

Well, you’ve got to look for it. I suggest, that a church is a very good place to look. If you want a faith that is yours, if you want a closet walk with Christ, then you must look.

But, Jason, you said that God does the looking and finding. Absolutely, but it is in the looking that we are found. It’s an openness and God can do almost anything in a heart that is open.

It’s never too late! It wasn’t too late for Josiah. It wasn’t too late for the man on the cross! Often, I think we inadvertently lay our faith down and we say, “Well, it’s just one Sunday.”

Then a few more weeks go by and we say, “It’s just a Sunday.”

And soon, the cares of life cover it up and it’s so hard to find the energy and interest to get back. To reengage.

Listen, it’s not too late.

I was new to a church once and I asked someone who was 62 at the time, “So, why did you start worshipping here?” And do you know what they said? “Well, I’ve been thinking about worshipping here since I was 43. So, it was really just a matter of time.”

19 years! 19! But it wasn’t too late. It’s never too late for God! Can you open your heart a little? And risk being found? And, can you risk finding God?

Let’s take these ideas to our passage.

Early that morning Mary woke up, got ready, and walked out the backdoor in the darkness of the early morning. She walked and walked to the cemetery. When she got there the stone was rolled away and do you what her first thought was? “Oh, no, I’ve lost Jesus again.”

Beautiful, soft-hearted Mary looking for Jesus, longing to be close with him again.

She tells Peter and John, “No, this can’t be. We can’t lose him again.”

And they go to the cemetery and they run and run. John outruns Peter but Peter looks in and sees the empty tomb.

Peter and John leave Mary and go back to the place they were staying. Well, Mary saw what Peter did, so she looked in and she saw two angels there and they ask, “Why are you crying?”

Oh, I’ve lost something, someone, so important, and I laid him right here but now I can’t find him. I just want to find him. My life is not the same without him. I can’t lose him.

She stands up and bumps into someone and the words fall into her lap like a velvet dream, “Mary, you’ve not lost me. I’m very much found.”

And her first instinct is to what? To grab and keep! “I thought I’d lost you. I thought I’d never see you again! I had almost given up hope of every finding you.” She looked and found!

This is what God always does, just sneaks up behind you and says, “I was close to you before you ever realized it.”

Conclusion

Friends, you are beloved of God. You don’t have to live always wondering if you are lost or found. You don’t have to live always wondering if God sees you, cares for you, or loves you. The answer is in the book – a book of good news we often put aside.

And today, God finds the treasure of heaven, the resurrected Jesus Christ, and places that gospel in our lap and says, “Read it. Make sense of this.”

We read that in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” For those who longed for him, who looked for him with open hearts, he opened to them the storehouses of heaven and poured out on them lavish grace.

They found a Savior who is as close as a sibling. They found someone who can tend to their soul. They found someone whose presence is real and so we never feel alone.

When they made a mistake, they knew God didn’t turn and walk away. When they needed help, God helped.

Can you imagine a life like that?

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